Legacies of Slave Ownership in Cheltenham

As part of our partnership with the City Voices programme of the Gloucester History Festival, undergraduate students in History at the University of Gloucestershire are undertaking a number of local history projects for 2022. The third project examines the legacies of slave ownership in Cheltenham, extending the work conducted by students in 2021. The project group is made up by students Steve Hannis, Ben Haidon, Sam Burgess, Tom Gullick and Harvey Pearce.

In 1833 the Abolition of Slavery Act was passed in parliament, starting the slow process of the emancipation of all slaves in the British Empire. As a result of abolition, the government agreed to pay compensation to slave owners for the ‘loss of their property.’ Any slave owner who wanted to claim compensation had to apply. This process created detailed records of slave ownership in Britain. These records are the starting point of our project, which aims to examine some of the issues relating to the abolition of slavery and compensation paid to people residing in Cheltenham.

We began our project in January and began using the Legacies of British Slave Ownership database. We started by looking at various individuals living in Cheltenham who claimed substantial amounts of money under the Compensation Act. Many of these individuals left little trace of how they spent the money, bringing us to the conclusion that most of them simply lived off it. We researched various people, but many were dead ends. Then we discovered William Hinds Prescod, who moved to Cheltenham after Emancipation. The records showed that prior to abolition, Prescod was the largest slave owner in Barbados after inheriting a number of plantations from his uncle in 1815. He claimed £37,000 in compensation following the abolition of slavery, over £4,000,000 in today’s currency.

Our research so far has demonstrated the complex nature of this subject, with Prescod being a particularly complicated figure. A Cambridge educated Lawyer, Prescod freed over twenty slaves during his time in Barbados and fathered 4 children with a freed slave. One of these children was Samuel Jackman Prescod (fig 1), who became the first black politician in Barbados. Prescod also fiercely contested other claims made against his uncle’s will, claiming that his relatives intended to put their hands into his pocket. After this online research we visited Gloucestershire Archives where we managed to find proof that Prescod bought his Cheltenham estate, Alstone Lawn, for £1,200 just after he received his compensation. We found the original record for this transaction, on the document was Prescod’s signature still intact. Some further research online found that his estate eventually fell into disrepair and was burnt down by suffragettes in 1913.

Samuel Jackman Prescod on a
Barbadian bank note.

Prescod’s wealth was demonstrated by the fact that he also amassed a substantial art collection that was auctioned off by his family in 1861, 13 years after his death in 1848. A record of the auction of Prescod’s collection is held at the National Gallery. After looking through these records we found that a significant proportion of his collection was acquired on a series of trips to Italy, which means he took part in the ‘Grand Tour’ custom of his era. His collection was made up of sculptures, vases sketches and paintings, with the most notable artists being Rembrandt, Vandyke and Guido (fig 2). Our research has also revealed evidence that Prescod invested in shares in the Assembly Rooms in Cheltenham. The Assembly Rooms was a hub for the elite in Cheltenham due to its versatile nature. It was the site of art trading, theatrical productions, and political activities (which had also included debates on the abolition of slavery). The site of the Assembly Rooms is now the Everyman Theatre, giving us a potential link between Prescod’s wealth and the present day.

“The Philosopher” By Rembrandt, a
painting similar to one of the pieces owned by
Prescod.

What we have found so far is interesting, but there is a lot more to learn about Prescod. We are going to conduct further research into his investments in the local area, as well as his activity in Barbados before abolition, with the hope that we find out more about the legacies of slavery and how these may have impacted the town. We have recently found Prescod’s will, which may provide some further information. All the information we have found so far has given as a lot of leads, we are hopeful that once we have followed all of these up, we will have a clearer picture of Prescod’s story.

Abolitionism in Gloucestershire: Samuel Bowly

As part of our partnership with the City Voices programme of the Gloucester History Festival, undergraduate students in History at the University of Gloucestershire are undertaking a number of local history projects for 2022. In this second of four projects, students examine the local abolitionist movement, extending the work conducted by students in 2021. The project group is made up by students Jordan Rosewarne, Lydia Horwell and Callum Hughes.

In this project we are taking a closer look at the life and work of Gloucestershire abolitionist Samuel Bowly (1802-1884). In October 2017 a blue plaque was placed at Bowly’s last residence in 65 Park Road, Gloucester. However, it seems fairly safe to assume that very fee people are aware of the vibrant presence of the abolitionist movement in Gloucestershire, let alone the work of Bowly. Two projects conducted for the Cotswold Centre for History & Heritage in 2021, and exhibited at the Gloucester History Festival demonstrated an active abolitionist presence in both Cheltenham and Gloucester. Our aim is to add to knowledge on this topic by examining the work and local legacies of one of the most significant local abolitionists.

Bowly present in the famous painting by Benjamin Haydon (1840-1) of the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, 1840.

Like many other abolitionists of the 18th and 19th centuries, Bowly was also a Quaker. He was born in Cirencester in 1802 and led a life strictly defined by his faith, and was devoted to aiding enslaved people across the world. He took part in major events throughout his lifetime which will be incorporated into our project, such as the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London held in 1840. This was attended by major abolitionists from both England and the United States. Alongside this, he was also the President of the National Temperance League, and worked towards drawing attention to the damaging effects of alcohol on the human body.

So far, we have been able to find some important documents from Bowly, such as a hand-written letter at Gloucestershire Archives that demonstrate his horror at the conditions on a slave ship. This document will be at the core of our project as it shows the how Bowly learned about the reality of the slave trade. We are now searching for more materials held locally that can help to shed light on the life and legacy of this man. We will also be examining the interweaving nature of his work within both the Temperance movement and the abolitionist cause, to try and add to public knowledge on his accomplishments.

From Department Store to City Campus: the story of the Debenham’s building in Gloucester

As part of our partnership with the City Voices programme of the Gloucester History Festival, undergraduate students in History at the University of Gloucestershire are undertaking a number of local history projects for 2022. In this first of four projects, students examine how the changing function of an important building can give an interesting insight into the city’s change over more than a century. The project group is made up by students Jack Eccles, Nathan Gathercole, Kacper Kwiecinski, and Sophie Phillips.

Our project focuses on the links between the Gloucester community and the Debenham’s building as a retail commercial centre. The Debenham’s building is a testament to the growth of the retail economy in Gloucester and to its links with the local community.

Engraved on the Debenham’s building are the dates 1909 and 1914, which indicate the expansion of the building and also the growth of retail shopping in Gloucester. After the First World War, Gloucester city centre was seen as an area where the growth of the local economy could be further developed. In the 1920s, what is now Kings Square used to be King’s Street and St Aldridge Street. King’s Street is now Kings Walk. The city’s first department store, Bon Marche, owned by Drapery Trust, was opened on Northgate Street in 1889 by John Rowe Pope. In the late 1920s, a new building was constructed near to the site of the original shop.

After the Second World War, large retail businesses opened in Gloucester, and these began to displace some of the existing local businesses. Kings Square became a retail centre to rival the city of Bristol. In 1971, the Bon Marche department store was sold to Debenham’s.

We’ve looked over a number of news articles, interviews, reports and business documents relating to the original building to establish the growth and success of the companies that were located inside it, from the original Bon Marche department store through to the renamed Debenham’s. The building is a perfect case study of the economic growth of Gloucester as a whole. Its rise signalled the coming of a commercial boom in the city, much like its later decline came to reflect the downturn of city centre retail in the early 21st century.

The impact of the building can be seen beyond its economic function. It became a true hotspot for the community by offering a space, being proactive and, more importantly, creative in its engagement with the local population. Minute books show how the employees and management were committed to the idea that the building should serve as more than just a department store. It was also a communal space that hosted events, participated in parades, and did so by engaging the entire staff. This community outlook proved to be incredibly successful. Many people fondly recall their time spent at Debenham’s. In many ways, the picture we are drawing from our research can be compared to that of mall culture in North America during the 1980s.

It is both of these factors put together that give our project a critical understanding of how the Debenham’s building was truly a crucial and important part of the city. Its evolution is closely tied to the development of Gloucester as a whole. This gives profound meaning to its legacy as the building is currently being remodelled as the University of Gloucestershire City Campus.

Planned design for the new City Campus on King’s Square.

Our project aims to uncover and show these developments to a wider audience so that this building’s unique history can be shared and understood as we move into the next phase of Gloucester’s life.

Lockdown Life Stories

This year, our students are working on a number of important local history projects covering the hidden lives of prominent women, exploring the experiences of lockdown, and uncovering links with slavery. All the projects will be exhibited in September as part of the ‘City Voices’ programme of the Gloucester History Festival. This post is one of five projects exploring the much more contemporary experiences of life under lockdown, and sees students applying some knowledge of oral history as a research method. The students involved are Mike Brazier and Tom Thickbroom.

The aim of our Lockdown Life Stories is to find out the impact the series of lockdowns have had on workers employed in some of the country’s key public services, such as the NHS and teaching, and the ways in which these people have overcome the issues that may have arisen during lockdown. We decided to interview four NHS workers and four teachers because these occupations could provide us with different experiences of the lockdowns. Each group has been affected by the pandemic, with NHS workers having to take on new roles due to Covid and teachers being forced to use online resources to present their classes because of school closures.

We agreed to conduct the interviews together via online calls on Microsoft Teams so that we could record the meetings and write up a transcript for future reference when we come to produce the final presentation of our project. For the interviews, we decided to ask a set of standardised questions with both professions, the only difference being that each group would be asked four ‘profession specific’ questions alongside a further four ‘general’ questions. We agreed to use a standardised set of questions for the interviews as opposed to sets of randomised questions so that every person we interview receives the same overall experience, making the interviews more straightforward to conduct, and because the answers then allow for more direct comparison when it comes to producing the final project.

We designed a consent form that all participants complete and sign before the interviews commence. The form includes the opportunity for participants to withdraw any information they don’t wish to be recorded. If they don’t feel comfortable with how their answers may be used in the future, they also have the option to withdraw completely from the project. This was done to ensure that all participants felt comfortable with all of the questions we may ask during the interview.

So far, we’ve completed four interviews. We’ve been able to complete all the interviews for those working in the NHS, so we’ve now got the recordings and the transcripts of these interviews for future use when we come to produce our final project. We still need to complete the last four interviews involving the teachers, but we’ve found it difficult to identify teachers who are able to participate in the interviews because schools reopened at the beginning of March and since then teachers have been too busy to participate in our project.

As this is the case, we’ve discussed the idea of changing our focus from teachers to shop / supermarket workers because, like NHS workers, they’ve continued to work throughout the lockdowns and they’ve been greatly affected by the pandemic. It’s likely that we’ll switch our focus to these workers if we can’t get any teachers to agree to be interviewed before the Easter Break.

Working on historic Excavations at Evesham Abbey

This post comes from second year undergraduate student Chris Chamberlain, who is contributing to a project on the Rudge family excavations of the Evesham Abbey grounds from 1811-1834 as part of the HM5002 Engaging Humanities module.

A Brief history of the Abbey:

Evesham Abbey was founded by Saint Egwin of Worcester during the 8th century, and was an integral place of worship and commerce for the Evesham area. This was especially the case after the Norman conquests due to the efforts of Abbott Aethelwig, and lasted until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1540 when the Abbey was demolished. Only the 16th century bell tower remained intact.

The 16th century bell tower in Evesham, with the All-Saints church in the background. Photo taken by Gregory Larson, 2012

After his death at the Battle of Evesham in 1265, Simon de Montfort was interred near what is believed to have been the high altar of the Abbey. His son, Henry de Montfort, was also buried there. The Abbey’s founder, Saint Egwin, was enshrined at the Abbey, alongside the remains of other saints, including Saint Credan, Saint Wigstan and Saint Odulf. These important burials speak volumes as to the importance of Evesham Abbey in medieval Britain.

The Rudge Family Excavations, 1811-1834

Edward Rudge (1763-1846), who was primarily a botanist, owned the grounds on which much of the Abbey once stood. His son, Edward John Rudge (1792-1861), was considered an antiquary, and was eventually made a fellow of the Royal Society in 1847. Edward John Rudge made the first excavation of the Abbey grounds following its destruction and his investigation still stands as the most extensive excavation of the ruins to date. He published his findings from the excavations in volume 5 of the Vetusta Monumenta in 1835.

This schematic featured in Vetusta Monumenta, vol.5, 1835, published by the Society of Antiquaries, London. It shows the foundations and floorplans discovered during the Rudge dig.

Edward John Rudge’s memoir in the Vetusta Monumenta provides us with an indication of the scale of the Abbey. He states that it stood at almost 300 feet long and 300 feet tall. In total, it is estimated that the Abbey covered an area of 90,000 square feet.

There is no doubt that the Abbey itself dominated not only the local landscape, but also the daily life of Evesham for over 800 years. It would likely have remained an integral place of Catholic worship if it were not for the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century. For artists impressions of what the abbey looked like and for more information on upcoming projects, follow this link: Evesham Abbey | Evesham Abbey Trust

African American Abolitionists in Gloucester

This year, our students are working on a number of important local history projects covering the hidden lives of prominent women, exploring the experiences of lockdown, and uncovering links with slavery. All the projects will be exhibited in September as part of the ‘City Voices’ programme of the Gloucester History Festival. This post is one of five projects, and explores the visits of former American slaves to Britain in the 19th century. Group members include Bethan Burley, Abbie Coleman, Alivia Middleton, Rebecca Taylor.

Our project focuses on African American abolitionists that visited Gloucestershire in the 19th century. We are examining their impact on the abolitionist movement as a whole, along with the methods they used in order to bring about the abolition of slavery. Going into this project, we knew a little bit about abolitionists in America. However, we knew nothing about the work of African American abolitionists in England, the impact that they had whilst here, or even the reasons why they came to England in the first place.

The connections between slavery and Gloucestershire are evident over hundreds of years. One of the earliest relevant documents dates from 1603. In England, slavery wasn’t abolished until 1834, and because of the amount of money generated in Gloucestershire through the operations of the slave trade, there was a good deal of local resistance to the abolitionist movement. British and American abolitionists joined forces in the call to end slavery, delivering lectures hosted across the county.

Our project focuses on four African American abolitionists that were identified in the work of Hannah Rose Murray, and the Frederick Douglass in Britain and Ireland project: Moses Roper, William Wells Brown and William and Ellen Craft, all of whom delivered talks in Gloucestershire in favour of the abolition of slavery.

Moses Roper was one of the first escaped slaves to travel to Britain, and his very first lecture was delivered in Gloucestershire. With the aid of British abolitionists, Roper gained a university education and told gruesome stories of his experiences on the slave farms in North Carolina and Florida.

William Wells Brown was a prominent African American abolitionist lecturer, novelist and historian in the United States. His time in Britain had a lasting impact. His personal objectives indicated his desire to educate others on the wrongs that were still being committed towards slaves and the free coloured people in both America and Britain. He often addressed the issues of slavery as a lecturer and a fugitive tourist. His success is reflected in a growing audience that sparked conversations and debates, benefiting his work as an anti-slave activist.

William and Ellen Craft made their escape from slavery to north America in December 1848 travelling by train. Their escape was made easier by Ellen’s ability to cross dress and pass William off as her servant. When they were threatened by the fugitive slave act, they emigrated to England. They continued their work as abolitionists by giving lectures across the country. They later returned to the United States where they set up education facilities for freed slaves’ children.

One of the main resources we’ve used in this project is the British Newspaper Archives. British newspapers included articles on all of the abolitionists we’re looking at and although there was not much on them in Gloucestershire the information provided for their travels throughout the country has allowed us to form an impression of what they may have done during their time in Gloucester and Cheltenham.

Overall, we aim to highlight how much of an impact these African American abolitionists had in Gloucestershire by reviewing what they did, what they said, how they interacted with other abolitionists and their contribution to the fight for racial equality.

The Legacies of Slave Ownership in Pittville and Cheltenham

This year, our students are working on a number of important local history projects covering the hidden lives of prominent women, exploring the experiences of lockdown, and uncovering links with slavery. All the projects will be exhibited in September as part of the ‘City Voices’ programme of the Gloucester History Festival. This post is one of five projects, and explores the legacies of slave ownership in and around Gloucester, and includes Alfie Lansdown, Jack Vincent, Sam Hodges, and Will Clark.

Our research project focuses on the legacies of slavery in Cheltenham, and we chose this topic partly in response to the recent protests around the portrayal of slaveholders in Britain and the corresponding Black Lives Matter movement. We aim to discover the ways in which legacies of the transatlantic slave trade are still visible around the area in which we live and study. Our research has considered the effects and legacies of the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act. We aim to uncover the historical opinions of local people by researching the time period around when the act was debated in order to see if the abolition movement was supported locally. We’ve also been looking directly at the legacies of slavery evident in Pittville today, one of Cheltenham’s most distinctively Regency-era areas . We have focused on two key individuals who benefitted from slavery and were compensated directly by the 1833 Act.

Map of Pittville in 1855

Our research began by identifying the connections to slavery amongst people who lived in the Pittville area. First, we used the UCL database of Legacies of British Slave Ownership, and work done by Pittville History Works to identify the most significant local slaveholders. One of the key individuals is Solomon Mendes Da Silva, who lived at 5 Blenheim Parade in Pittville. He received over £6000 in compensation (equivalent to £767,000 today) for his plantations and the slaves who lived on them. His largest plantation, in St Ann’s, Jamaica, covered 300 acres and had 96 enslaved workers. Da Silva is significant to our study because he directly benefitted from the act. He generously spent this money in the local Jewish community and put funds into a local Synagogue. He spent his final years living in the gated community around Pittville Park, which has many of its large homes still standing

A similar home in Pittville costs £1,950,000 today

.

We have made extensive use of the British Newspaper Archive to investigate the opinions of local people at the time of abolition. Through a collection of local newspapers we discovered that there was general support for abolition in Cheltenham. The Assembly Rooms hosted many large gatherings that debated the morals and validity of slavery. We also identified Cheltenham’s first Member of Parliament, elected in 1832. Craven Fitzhardige Berkeley petitioned parliament on behalf of the Cheltenham abolitionists. Furthermore, he was an advocate for progressive rights movements. The local community continued to advocate for abolition after the British Abolition Act was passed. Lectures continued at the Assembly Rooms pressing for the total abolition of slavery across the Atlantic, and many prominent abolitionists were invited to speak, including Britain’s leading abolitionist George Thompson.

So far, our research has given us a crucial understanding of the direct effects of slavery on Pittville and Cheltenham. Our study has shown that the problems linked to slavery directly affected the whole town and that slavery had an extensive reach.

The Life and Legacy of Lilian Faithfull

This year, our students are working on a number of important local history projects covering the hidden lives of prominent women, exploring the experiences of lockdown, and uncovering links with slavery. All the projects will be exhibited in September as part of the ‘City Voices’ programme of the Gloucester History Festival. This post is one of five projects, and explores the life of famous Cheltonian and humanitarian, Lilian Faithfull. Group members include Grace Fry, Sam Hodges, Megan Kenchington, Tom White.

This project contributes to the women’s history of Cheltenham by exploring the life and work of one of its prominent twentieth-century educationalists and philanthropists: Lilian Faithfull (1865-1952).

Her education: Lilian Faithfull was born on 12 March 1865. She was one of eight children. In recognising her potential, her father sent her to his brother–in–law’s prep school, where she received a well-rounded and rare education. She was the only girl among twenty-five boys, and she later paid tribute to the thorough education she received. After completing her schooling, she continued to study from home and through the university extension movement, which had started offering lectures in subjects such as History and Economics.

She then attended Somerville College, Oxford, where she received a first-class degree in English Language and Literature. She couldn’t officially graduate but claimed an ad eundem award from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1905. She was awarded an honorary MA degree from Oxford in 1925 and a CBE in 1926.

Her career: Lilian Faithfull’s first job in 1887-88 was secretary to the principal of Somerville College, Madeleine Shall Lefevre. She then taught for a year at Oxford High School. She was then a lecturer in English at Royal Holloway College from 1889-94, and was subsequently appointed to succeed Cornelia Schmitz as Vice Principal of the ladies’ department of King’s College, London. She describes this job as one of the happiest educational posts for women in England. The aim of the department was to provide women with the same sorts of opportunities that were provided by the university extension lectures offered by Oxford and Cambridge. Women aged seventeen to seventy came to listen to lectures given by professors at Kings College. Faithfull was active in pushing for the advancement of women’s education, pursuing courses of study leading to university examinations, academic degrees and diplomas.

During her thirteen years as Vice Principal, the numbers of students doubled, a hall of residence was opened in 1897, household science was developed as a serious branch of study, and much of the King’s financial debt was cleared.

In 1906, Faithfull was persuaded to apply for the position of Headmistress at Cheltenham Ladies’ College following the death of Dorothea Beale. At the Ladies’ College, she is remembered as a likable, easy-mannered leader, who had concern and appreciation for her students’ welfare.

During the First World War, Faithfull recalls how often she had to share the news of lost fathers and brothers.  She established an intercession room near her office, where students could go to pray and find some privacy. She also organised a Red Cross hospital in one of the boarding houses.

Faithfull also served as Justice of the Peace for twenty-five years, retiring on 17 January 1946. She was one of the first women magistrates to be appointed to the Commission of Peace in October 1920 and she was the first female magistrate to sit on the Cheltenham bench. On her retirement, the chairman (Sir Francis Colchester-Wemyss) said: ‘She has been a model of justice and will carry away with her the esteem and the affection of all the justices’.

Lillian Faithfull died on the 2 May 1952 at Faithfull House, Cheltenham, a home for the elderly that she had helped to found. She was buried in Cheltenham.

Our groups next steps: Sam and Grace are currently exploring the newspaper archives. We’ve had some success, finding new information and quotes about Lilian Faithfull’s role as magistrate. Tom and Meg will spend time in the University of Gloucestershire Archive and will read her memoirs. We’re hoping to find more personal reflections on the events of her life, as well as more information about her role as head mistress at the Cheltenham Ladies’ College and her career after retirement. Grace is going to chase the archivist at the Cheltenham Ladies’ College now that lockdown restrictions are being eased, in the hope of being able to access their records of her leadership. Melanie has forwarded to us some online information about Lilian Faithfull. Our key sources so far are an article from the Dictionary of National Bibliography archive, a few newspaper articles, and images from the care homes website.

Legacies of slave ownership in Gloucestershire

This year, our students are working on a number of important local history projects covering the hidden lives of prominent women, exploring the experiences of lockdown, and uncovering links with slavery. All the projects will be exhibited in September as part of the ‘City Voices’ programme of the Gloucester History Festival. This post is one of five projects, and explores the legacies of slave ownership in and around Gloucester, and includes Joe Richardson, Harry Scott, Stephen Walmsley.

The Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020 awoke a desire in many to learn more about our past and to question what we see around us. Many people wanted to gain further knowledge of the slave trade, a topic often brushed over in school, and many, ourselves included, wanted to know in what ways wealth generated by slavery is still visible. This project provides us with the opportunity to explore these questions in a case study of Gloucestershire. We aim to explore some of the legacies of the slave trade that are still visible in Gloucester and Gloucestershire.

Initially, we investigated how the abolition of slavery came about in Britain and its empire. There were two key pieces of legislation. First, the 1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade Act allowed for the confiscation of all ships involved in the slave trade. The 1807 Act also imposed fines on slave ship masters of £100 per slave if they tried to transport thereafter. Second, the 1834 Abolition Act had two sections: one emancipated the slaves, and the other compensated the slave owners. This act saw over £20,000,000 (over £2.4bn in today’s money) given in compensation to over 3,000 slave owning families. This was around 5% of GDP and 40% of the national budget. The money borrowed to pay this compensation was only paid off in 2015.

Next, we used the University College London (UCL) website Legacies of British slave-ownership to identify the names of known slave owners of Gloucester who received compensation after 1834. We then used a range of archives and digital archives, including the British Newspaper Archive, to explore further the individuals found on the UCL website. We found eleven people in Gloucester, or the villages just outside of the city, who received compensation. Of these eleven, we were able to find some more detailed information in archives and from records kept by local history societies, although this is still an ongoing process.

We found Rev. George Wilson Bridges. Bridges served as a vicar in two parishes in Jamaica and then served as rector as St. Giles Church in Maisemore, a village just outside Gloucester, from 1844-1846. He returned to Gloucestershire as vicar at Beachley from 1858-1863. He received just over £87 in compensation for three slaves, but this was not the main way that Bridges profited from slavery. Bridges earnt an annual income of between £500 and £2000 from baptising slaves whilst he was serving in Jamaica. With this money, he was able to fund a decade of travel around the world developing photography, something for which he is remembered. This example shows two aspects of slavery: first, the way people could indirectly profit from slavery; and second, one of the ways people spent the money they made from it, including pursuing a hobby.

People also invested their wealth. For example, George Henry Ames received over £45,000 in compensation for sixteen slave estates and made significant investments in the Great Western Cotton Company. Henry Sealy received £393 in compensation, and he invested a total of £2,500 in the York and Carlisle railway. Sealy was not the only Gloucestershire slave owner to invest in railways. These examples demonstrate that profit from the slave trade remains ingrained in many aspects of modern life in ways that are extremely easy to miss, such as the development of a railway network.

Badminton House as mentioned above (https://www.badmintonestate.com)

Another visible aspect of wealth from the slave trade is in the country estates around Gloucestershire. These were the ideal purchase for wealthy slave traders and merchants from Bristol. There were at least ten country estates in Gloucestershire that saw money from slavery invested in them, including one of the most famous in the country: Badminton House. Badminton benefitted from a £20,000 refurbishment in late 17th century by its owner, Henry Somerset, who had extraordinarily strong links to the slave trade.

Even though the project is ongoing, the examples listed in this post demonstrate that money from the slave trade can be seen in many aspects of modern life even in areas that one might not expect.

The Soldiers of St Paul’s, Cheltenham

This post comes from second year undergraduate student Jason Thomas, who is conducting a project with the University’s Archives and Special Collections as part of the HM5002 Engaging Humanities module.

My project involves making a contribution to writing the short biographies of a number of alumni soldiers who attended St. Paul’s Practicing School, located at Francis Close Hall campus along with St Paul’s College in Cheltenham. In due course, a memorial board will be placed inside the chapel at FCH and an exhibition about the alumni soldiers is scheduled to take place in November 2021.

Commonwealth War Graves Cheltenham Cemetery

Many of the 41 students covered by this project lived locally and they all served as soldiers in the Second World War. The task involved analysing service records about the students, and preparing short biographies noting information relating to their family life, educational background, employment history and leisure activities. Most of the source material came from the Commonwealth War Graves website (which has a ‘Held in Honour’ page providing short biographies of the soldiers), grave register and registration information and a pdf copy of the burial site. The major challenge for me in writing the biographies was to ensure that they did not simply repeat the information already publicly available. With only two paragraphs to work with, it was important to provide some new insight to every story, even if the eventual outcome for each of the individual soldiers was ultimately the same.

Image of St. Paul’s Training College Practising School and environs, Cheltenham (1934)

My personal connection to Cheltenham has been further cemented by working on these biographies. Although my other interests in photography and walking had already established a sense of belonging to the town through visiting various buildings and the surrounding landscape, this project has imprinted an emotional link with Cheltenham that will stay with me for a long time. I considered it not only a duty, but also a pleasure to learn more about the everyday lives of these local people, their day-to-day normality, the routine of going about their business, until either by choice or by call, their lives were taken in a different direction. They have helped to shape Cheltenham’s wartime history.